John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

XDV 4K action camera

Ok, every now and then I give in, and without research, just impulse buy something. It more often than not turns out to be a bad decision but sometimes you just have to say WTF, why not. And thus we have this gadget. It came across Factory Direct’s mailer as a special for a mere $70 plus taxes. Well first off, I have to say Factory Direct’s return policy for defective product is less than convenient. I had to take it back to a store? So what’s the purpose of buying it online? They ain’t no Amazon. And now you wonder why I had to look into the return policy … well the WIFI on the first one I got was dead. So back to the store I went. Took another one, sure enough … another one with dead WIFI. By the time I got to the third camera I finally got one that the WIFI worked on. So I guess this is an omen for what I can expect for quality on this device. Anyway, while it’s working let’s get on with the review …

The camera is a plastic, styless brick. Not uncommon with these action cameras. It came with a plethora of mounting clips, and brackets. Everything from a waterproof enclosure, to a clothing clip, zip ties, sticky tape, and even velcro straps. I really was quite impressed with the amount of stuff in the box. What didn’t come is something that you could use to mount it in a car. More about the car in a bit.

The camera itself has a typical fish eye lense with no optical zoom.

(Photo shamelessly pilfered from Pevly who also has a great review of this gadget).

What this camera does not come with is much of a manual, or much any software for that matter. There’s no photo editing software for your PC. Nada. Your left to sort it out on your own. There is a phone app you can use to control the camera remotely and setup settings. The app relies on WIFI to create the connection. It sets up a hotspot on it’s own (press and hold the volume up key or press a bunch of menu buttons), you connect your phone to the WIFI, and then start the app.

The camera has a screen that covers pretty much most of the back of the camera and is likely a scratch magnet. The front of the camera’s fish eye lens is also waiting to be scratched. My overall impression is that this is not going to be a durable device. Control of the device is by 4 buttons, power, ok, up and down. The menuing system is simple enough and fairly straight forward. The camera can take a uSD card and is charged by a standard micro USB port. Shockingly an AC adapter was included. You need to make sure your uSD card is fast enough to support writing at speed. The camera is pretty much useless without a uSD card. No internal storage even for pictures. You can use this for still photos, but I can’t imagine why you would. Any point and shoot, not to mention phone, would take as good or better pictures. And no flash to boot …

The battery for the device is behind a super cheap door but it can be removed if you can figure out how to get it out. It’s a 900 maH battery, no idea if you could find spares.

I got about 1 hr 15 mins of battery life. You could add an external battery back to it and get longer running time (without the waterpoof case of course). In colder weather (10C) battery time dropped down to just under an hour (52 mins).

There are lights on the front of the display for power, charging and one on the top of the camera for when WIFI is on. On power on and off the camera gives a goofy noise and shows a goofy hi and bye message. The camera does not have any light to show it’s recording, and in bright sunlight the screen isn’t the easiest thing to see. And in the waterproof case you can’t hear much either, so it’s a little hard to know if you have started it recording or not. And it’s super easy to hit the stop button (a simple press stops it) so all in all it would be very easy to miss recording something you really wanted to record.

Nauseating detail alert 🙂
According to the factory direct listing the camera uses a Sony 179 sensor. The sensor according to specs is a 8Mp, or 3280×2464. So 16Mp which is what is advertised is at best an embellishment. 4K video is 3840×2160 so this too is not as advertised. 2.7K is 2704×1520, 1080p is 1920×1080 and 720p is 1280×720 so they are possible with this sensor. With a pixel rate off the sensor of 260MHZ this means at the max resolution it can just barely meet 30 frames per second. The camera says 4K is recorded at 30 fps but based on the specs this would absolutely be at the edge of the sensors specs. For high action shots(this is supposed to be an action camera after all) you want higher frame rates, 30 is barely passable. Choosing 1080p 60 fps, or 720 90/120 seems a lot more realistic, but 2.7K 30fps might also be ok.

When plugged into a PC the camera gives you three choices, charge, USB to read off the uSD card or PC camera. I tried repeatedly and couldn’t get the PC camera mode to work. It just dropped back out. USB works fine. If this device is firmware upgradeable I don’t see how.

Size wise it is: Camera Dimensions: 29.8 x 59.2 x 41 mm, and weighs 58g with battery.

There is a car mode in the menus. In this mode using it like a dash cam when the power comes on the camera comes on and immediately starts recording. But I didn’t find it stopped or shut off when the power shut off. Of course this relies on the fact that your car’s lighter plug goes on and off when the car does (which neither of mine does). So all in all this seems half implemented and thus not usable.

So let’s have a look at 1080p 60 fps. I think that is going to the place I want to focus on. Acceptable resolution, good frame rate. I did a 15 min video, and it ended up 3.29GB. This translates to 3.7 MB/s. On a 64G card this would allow you to store up to 290 mins or about 4.5 hours of video (once formatting losses in FAT are taken into account). The video taken seems good enough for what I want.

So now let’s look at the results. First off is using the clothing clip with it on my belt. With no image stabilization the video is clear but there’s so much jiggle watching it could almost make you sea sick. Higher end cameras include some image stabilization. Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

Next up lets have a look at using it as a dash cam. In low light the results are practically useless. And this is on a city lit street with headlights on. Making almost anything of any consequence out is going to be challenging.
Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

In brighter daylight but with the sun in your face the results are better except when you go into and out of brightness it struggles pretty much as expected.
Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

Mounted on the deck of my kayak was super easy and it worked very well in this mode. In gentle waters the camera captures crisp clear videos. Works well in this mode, which is actually what I bought it for!
Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

On the handle bars of a full suspension mountain bike the results are not too bad. Again the lack of image stabilization is a limitation. Detail and motion even at 60FPS are good.
Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

If your looking for a free simple video editor
NCH Video pad
works well.

The camera splits files just under the max 4G limit of FAT64. For 1080p, 60fps this ended up being 15 min chunks.

Now one of the reasons I bought this camera was price. Of course it’s worth pointing out that it was an impulse (non researched buy). I notice now that GoPro Hero+ camera which are at least on par with this one are available refurb on Amazon for around $159. In retrospect, I think I’d belly up the extra cash for the GoPro. But in all this camera is better than I expected and for $70 why not …

October 4, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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